In the Loop is a spin-off of a British show… I didn’t know about that connection when I watched it. I guess it doesn’t matter, since In the Loop is–apparently–something of a prequel. The show’s called “The Thick of It,” for those interested.
Now, where to start.
In the Loop is, without being specific with names, about the rush to the Iraq war in 2003. As an anti-war film, it’s probably the most effective one I’ve seen about that war, because it portrays the people behind it as self-serving and callow. It’s hilarious. It’s also rather depressing when one realizes the state of government, but it’s definitely funny.
As really funny–and here’s where In the Loop gets a lot of laughs–is a Scotsman swearing. The film opens with Peter Capaldi and this torrent of obscenities just starts rushing from him. A lot of his particular insults are well-written, but it’s Capaldi’s performance–that accent–is still the most important part.
He’s not really the lead in the film, but the film doesn’t really have one so maybe he’s the closest it does have.
It sort of opens and closes with Chris Addison’s career, but he’s so unlikable after a certain point, it’s hard to call him a protagonist.
The best performances are from David Rasche (a standout), Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy (another standout) and Steve Coogan.
But it’s sad the British cast Americans better than Hollywood.
Directed by Armando Iannucci; written by Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche; director of photography, Jamie Cairney; edited by Anthony Boys and Billy Sneddon; music by Adam Ilhan; production designer, Christina Casali; produced by Kevin Loader and Adam Tandy; released by Optimum Releasing.
Starring Anna Chlumsky (Liza Weld), Chris Addison (Toby Wright), David Rasche (Linton Barwick), Gina McKee (Judy Molloy), James Gandolfini (Lt. Gen. George Miller), Mimi Kennedy (Karen Clark), Olivia Poulet (Suzy), Peter Capaldi (Malcolm Tucker), Steve Coogan (Paul Michaelson), Tom Hollander (Simon Foster) and Zach Woods (Chad).
Posted in 2009, ★★★, Color, Comedy, English, Optimum Releasing, UK
Tagged Adam Ilhan, Adam Tandy, Anna Chlumsky, Anthony Boys, Armando Iannucci, Billy Sneddon, Chris Addison, Christina Casali, David Rasche, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Jamie Cairney, Jesse Armstrong, Kevin Loader, Mimi Kennedy, Olivia Poulet, Peter Capaldi, Simon Blackwell, Steve Coogan, Tom Hollander, Tony Roche, Zach Woods
The Coens usually write tight scripts. Burn After Reading doesn’t have a particularly tight script. Instead, it’s got a bunch of great performances and funny scenes–astoundingly good dialogue (their use of curse words for humorous effect is noteworthy)–and some great details. But the film isn’t really much of a story. Literally speaking, it’s about what happens after the CIA decides to transfer John Malkovich over to the State Department for no specified reason. In the film’s first uproarious exchange, Malkovich objects to being classified an alcoholic by a Mormon (Burn came before Prop 8, so there–unfortunately–isn’t any mention of alien planets). But the film isn’t really about Malkovich. He’s in quite a bit of it–and is excellent in the film in ways he hasn’t gotten to be excellent in quite a while–but he’s not the lead by any means.
Burn distracts from its lack of protagonist or tight plotting with the funny business. There’s a reasonably traditional first act with Malkovich, but only until it introduces Tilda Swinton (as Malkovich’s wife) and George Clooney (as her lover). Swinton turns in the film’s only bad performance and it isn’t really her fault, it’s the Coen’s. She plays a pediatrician who’s cruel to kids (in front of their parents). Doesn’t seem like she’d make it long in that professional. But it gets a little worse–I don’t think the Coens even bother to name her well in the film. I’m seeing her character’s name in the credits and it’s something of a surprise… like I only would have figured it out through process of elimination.
Anyway, once they show up, it’s not long before Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt arrive. McDormand and Pitt have lots of the film’s best scenes. Pitt shows off why he’s such a great comic actor–they’re both playing dopes, with McDormand a little smarter (only a little). As far as the performances go, Clooney probably comes in second behind Malkovich. While Malkovich gives this great performance, it’s just this technically excellent actor with good material. Clooney–in his Coen Brothers mode–creates this wonderful character, full of tics and idiosyncrasies. Much like the film itself, he exists to amuse.
The only other supporting roles of note are Richard Jenkins, David Rasche and J.K. Simmons. Jenkins does very well–but he always does very well–even if he doesn’t have much to work with. Rasche and Simmons have these fantastic scenes together, which is where Burn After Reading is so frustrating. Their scenes together–two of them–are comic gold, but the scenes’ presence in the film itself is what works against Burn After Reading as a solid narrative.
It’s the Coen Brothers making a movie to get belly laughs and not taking anything else into account. I’m sure one could argue the lunacy of the plot is some kind of post-modern spy movie, but it’d be inaccurate. Burn After Reading is a really funny movie. It probably ought to be something more, given the numerous excellent performances (McDormand, who I didn’t mention before, only creates a caricature, but it’s a good one). But its failing in that department actually doesn’t feel like much of a failure.
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen; director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki; edited by Roderick Jaynes; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Jess Gonchor; produced by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner; released by Focus Features.
Starring George Clooney (Harry Pfarrer), Frances McDormand (Linda Litzke), John Malkovich (Osbourne Cox), Tilda Swinton (Katie Cox), Brad Pitt (Chad Feldheimer), Richard Jenkins (Ted Treffon), Elizabeth Marvel (Sandy Pfarrer), David Rasche (CIA Officer), J.K. Simmons (CIA Superior) and Olek Krupa (Krapotkin).
Posted in 2008, ★★★, Color, Comedy, Crime, Drama, English, Focus Features, France, UK, USA
Tagged Brad Pitt, Carter Burwell, David Rasche, Elizabeth Marvel, Emmanuel Lubezki, Eric Fellner, Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, J.K. Simmons, Jess Gonchor, Joel Coen, John Malkovich, Olek Krupa, Richard Jenkins, Roderick Jaynes, Tilda Swinton, Tim Bevan